Rolling With the Punches: Our Case Study

We’ve all been though tough times lately. Our industry has changed. As yet another stumbling block rears its head, I thought I’d share how we’ve been handling the challenges.

Point of reference: September 25th, 2015, my wife (a fitness pro and manager since 1995) and I (fitness pro and manager since 1980) moved to Easton, PA and opened a boutique fitness studio (Jiva Fitness) offering personal training and group fitness. All’s going well and our business gradually builds.

March, 16th, 2020, all gyms/clubs/studios are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Like everyone else, we had a moment of panic as we thought through, “What now?” Most were either moving to on-demand workouts for their clients or live streaming their workouts. We decided to go live streaming only (we believe in the supervision and interaction of being able see and assist our clients.) So, we immediately made the shift. We purchased some essential sound and video equipment, upgraded our internet, rented equipment to members that needed it to do their workouts from home, and began training and teaching live streaming workouts.

*The positive:

  • Some of our existing members and clients found that working out from home had a lot of benefits and continue to workout from home even though our studio is now open for in-person workouts.
  • Family and friends of our members and clients were able to join in from wherever they were in the world. (We had a couple of people from Europe join us.)
  • It’s a new market that we wouldn’t have discovered had we not jumped on it.

May 26th, 2020, my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. (one year later, she’s actually doing okay and we’re hopeful.) So, she was unable to teach her classes and train her clients. How could we keep the number and quality of our class schedule without her? I was already teaching a lot and couldn’t take on all of her classes as well. I picked up a couple of her classes and we decided to have friends of ours teach the remainder of her classes via Zoom from their location in Maine.

*The positive:

  • We realized that we could hire teachers from anywhere to teach for us online. In fact, we had a friend teach Pilates to our members from her studio in France.
  • We could offer classes that may not be available in your area. i.e. maybe there are no good Tai Chi instructors in your area, but you might find one that could teach online for you.

June 29th, 2021, I will get my right hip replaced. Okay, now I’m going to be unable to teach for a while. I, to date, have been teaching all of the in person classes since we were allowed to open our doors again. So, we’ve had some classes that have been online only and some that were both online and in person. Some of our members waited until we reopened before they came back. They’ve worked hard and regained their fitness levels. We can’t go all online again. The downside of the live streaming from remote locations has been that nobody would be able to see the instructor in the studio. How can we handle this? Our next move is to make the online classes accessible to people in the studio. I know that there are companies that have classes on demand that clubs can integrate into there studio spaces, but that’s not what we want. We want to offer our members live classes. Long story short, we are going to project the live streaming classes onto the front of the studio.

* The positive:

  • This will allow our members that like, want, and/or need to come into the studio to get in their workouts, a way to continue.
  • While my wife and I won’t be able to physically do the workouts, we can still be in the room and offer support and corrections during the projected classes. This adds back in the more personal touch that people expect when coming in to the studio.
  • This also expands the audience of our previously online only classes.

Now, the point of all of this is to highlight that when challenges come up (and they always do), you need to realize that, more often than not, there is an opportunity that comes along with it. Look for those chances to rethink what you do and how you do it.

Best of luck with your challenges!

Are You Turning Down Work?

The idea of turning down work seems crazy, doesn’t it? Early in our careers, many of us scrambled to make a living. We took every client and every job opportunity we could. That was a mistake then, and it’s a mistake now.

no,thank you.

Taking every client, any time of day, any day of the week, sets us up for creating a schedule that is chopped up, with no real time for ourselves or others in our lives. Imagine a schedule where you have hour-long sessions with clients at 6am, 9am, 10am, 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm. Six client hours per day is not bad, but those hours are going to old really fast. Set the hours that you want to be working first. (I used to set my hours so that I finished for the day when it was time to pick up my kids from school.) Then, work at filling those hours in. When asked to take on a client outside of those hours, explain that you only take clients from ______ to ________ and if they can adjust their schedule to meet between those hours, you would be happy to work with them. If they can’t, refer them to another personal trainer that would be a good match for them. The person inquiring about working with you will appreciate it and may well refer others to you that can train in that time frame.

Being able to say no to work is not just about training clients. It could also be additional jobs (or tasks) that we get offered throughout our careers. Taking every opportunity that comes our way can turn our lives into high pressure, stressful times that don’t leave time for the things that really matter to us. Maybe you were asked to serve on a committee, a board of directors, head a special project, take on an extra part-time job,… whatever. In each case, you need to weigh the benefits with the cost of time and effort. If its benefits, either financially or career-building wise, outweigh the cost, by all means take it, but you need to take the time to scrutinize it.

What got me thinking about this was that I was just offered (and was contemplating) an opportunity to create and teach a video course for a college in Ireland. Sounded like a very cool project. I was flattered that they asked me and it would be rewarding to create something like that. I took a few days to think it over. The money offered wasn’t great and it was going to eat into time that I really do need to put elsewhere (family, our business, and a project that was going to have a greater, long-term financial reward). So, after weighing the benefits and the cost to me, I turned them down.

Time is a precious commodity and we need to make the most of what we have. Learn to say no. Carve out the time to do the things that are most important to you and then only take on work that fits around that schedule.